Does meditation really make you happier?
Well, according to Matthieu Ricard aka ‘the happiest man in the world’. YES it does. But only if you put in the ‘training’.
Matthieu is the French Buddhist monk who’s brain was scientifically measured for positive emotions in this long term study. They specifically looked at the impact of meditation on the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response). It turns out that experienced meditators, such as Matthieu, are more effective at managing their amygdala compared to the control group
Matthieu says that happiness is a skill that can be learned with regular training because anything you practice changes who you are. Neuroplasticity also confirms that meditation can literally mold your brain into becoming happier. SO in order to feel more joyful we need to start training our minds just like we’d train to run a marathon (but without the sweat and sore knees ;).
One of the best ways to cultivate a state of happiness is through “compassion meditation”. In this practice, you will imagine the feeling of love and care that you have for another person in your life (for example, your parent, grandparent, friend, child, or pet).
We tend to become so consumed in our own problems (“Why me?”, “What’s wrong with me?”, etc.), that all of our energy is focused on the self. Once we shift the focus to others that we love, we start to experience feelings of connection and joy. This meditative practice will help you diffuse any sense of isolation you may be feeling.
You may be wondering how this practice can help you when you are already consciously aware of the people in your life that you care about. The truth is, feelings of happiness and love are fleeting, and those thoughts can quickly transition to other problems or worries that you are facing. The key is to purposefully stay in a compassionate mindset for at least five minutes a day to truly start experiencing the benefits.
It may sound easy, but people tend to get easily distracted when practicing this for the first time. I’ve created this video to guide you through the process. Here’s some of the key steps:
- Think of someone who makes you happy.
- Focus on your love for them, why do you value them? Why do they mean so much to you?
- When you notice that loving warm feeling inside your heart, allow it to sit there and bloom for at least five minutes. Imagine looking at them as you list all the reasons you care for them, watch how they react when receiving this.
- Maybe you remember a time when they have struggled (with health, money, or relationships)? How does that make you feel? Maybe you feel a desire to care for them? Imagine sending that caring energy like a light beaming straight from your heart to theirs. Allow it to embrace them like a big warm hug. That energy is the healing light of your compassion.
- It’s normal to get distracted! Every time this happens, acknowledge that a distraction has taken place, then refocus your attention back to your compassionate feeling.
Afterward practicing this meditation., you even start to spread your compassionate feelings to other friends, family or strangers around you. When you train your skill of compassion it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Check out the video meditation and let me know how it went?
How has compassion helped you or others in your life?
If you’d like to try something a bit longer here is one of my favorite mood boosters – 10 min Gratitude Meditation.